Gov. Greg Abbott gave the green light to beauty salons and barbershops to reopen starting Friday, May 8 — 10 days before he initially projected.   

Abbott made the announcement during a May 5 briefing, basically ushering in Phase 2 of his plan to reopen Texas ahead of schedule.

However, gyms will have to wait until May 18, and no date has been set for bars.

On April 27, the governor unveiled his strategy to reopen the state. In the first phase, which went into effect May 1, non-essential businesses — restaurant dining rooms, retailers, malls, and movie theaters — were allowed to reopen with restrictions such as limiting occupancy to 25 percent of capacity. Rural counties with fewer than five confirmed COVID-19 cases could reopen their businesses at 50 percent of capacity. Libraries and museums also were included in the first phase.

During the Tuesday briefing, Abbott detailed data that led him to allowing more non-essential businesses to reopen Friday. He noted that, while the number of Texans who have been tested has risen, the number of positive cases has remained relatively low.

The governor said 95 percent of tests statewide have come back negative. And much of the testing is being done in locations where one would expect a high number of positive results, he said, including packing plants, nursing homes, and prisons.

Abbott said that, as of Tuesday, 427,210 Texans had been tested, and 33,369 were positive for COVID-19. The numbers actually work out to about 93 percent negative and 7 percent positive.

Another big indicator, the governor said, is the comparison of active COVID-19 cases versus recovered cases. The latest figures the governor revealed were 15,672 active cases compared to 16,791 recovered cases, a difference of more than 1,000.

Overall, 1,888 people have been hospitalized in Texas due to COVID-19, and 906 have died.

Other factors Abbott cited in his plan to reopen are the 19,000 hospital beds and 2,000 intensive care units available in the state. On top of that, approximately 6,600 ventilators are still available.

That means, according to the governor, that Texas hospital systems are capable of handling all of the COVID-19 cases at this time. He added that, in his last executive order on April 27, he loosened some requirements that would allow medical professionals and hospital staffs to use more beds and resources for non-COVID-19 cases.

All in all, the governor said Texans have done a remarkable job responding to COVID-19 but that they still need to maintain good hygiene, proper social distancing, and other protocols so the state doesn’t take a step backward.

As for opening hair, nail, and tanning salons and barbershops, Abbott said he and his team have been working with people in the industry about precautions that can be taken to protect staff and customers and running those ideas past medical experts for their advice.

In the end, the governor said he felt salons, barbershops, and similar businesses were in a position to reopen with restrictions, including proper social distancing and sanitation.

Along those lines, the governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas also worked with gym owners on reopening. Those businesses, according to the governor, had a few more challenges and needed more time to reopen.

Even then, Abbott said gym locker rooms and showers would initially remain closed.

During the Tuesday briefing, the governor also clarified that funerals, memorials, burials, and weddings are to be treated the same as places of worship with limited seating arrangements.

The governor urged people most vulnerable to COVID-19 complications to consider watching such services online. He also recommended those providing these services set aside a space specifically for people in vulnerable populations, including those 65 years and older.

However, wedding receptions should follow the safety standards of restaurants.

For more information on the governor’s actions regarding COVID-19, his executive orders, and recommendations, go to the webpage dedicated to the state’s response. The governor’s report to reopen Texas also can be found online.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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